United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Caucasian doctoral student challenging a university's
decision to reduce his grade based on alleged plagiarism
which caused his removal from the university's doctoral
program must pursue the university's internal grievance
procedures before claiming it deprived him of due process. He
must also timely seek redress for claims the university
discriminated against him because of his Caucasian race.
When, as here, the graduate student did not pursue the
university's internal remedies to challenge his grade
reduction based on plagiarism and otherwise raises race
discrimination claims based on statements or actions made
well over two years before filing his case, we cannot find a
genuine issue of material fact on the federal law questions
precluding the university's motion for summary judgment.
While the pro se former student cites a litany of
disputed facts and misunderstandings to show why he should
have remained in the doctoral program and the university
acted unfairly towards him, our limited constitutional role
does not extend to evaluating student effort or second
guessing educational policy decisions so long as the
university complies with federal law, including affording due
process and not discriminating against the student based on
race or another identified characteristic. As there are no
genuine issues of material fact addressing these federal law
questions, we enter the accompanying Order granting the
university's motion for summary judgment.
Facts adduced in discovery in the light most favorable to Mr.
Mr. Satel's pre-doctoral career in the University's
Satell, a white man, enrolled in Temple University's
Urban Education program seeking a Master's degree in the
Fall Semester 2011. He then applied to the University's
Urban Education doctoral program. The University denied
admission to the Urban Education doctoral
program. In August 2012, the University awarded Mr.
Satell a Master's degree in Urban
Satell then applied to the University's Education
Psychology doctoral program and the University denied his
admission. In Fall 2013 semester, Mr. Satell remained
at the University as an undeclared continuing studies student
enrolled in three courses in the University's Africology
and African American Studies program. In one of those three
courses, Mr. Satell used the "n-word" when quoting
James Baldwin in a class presentation. Someone told him
"never say that again" and then another student got
up, left class, and then came back and told the other
students to leave. Mr. Satell reported this incident to the
University President, Dr. Neil D. Theoobald, and the director
of the Africology and African American Studies program, Dr.
Molefi Asante. Mr. Satell also told them he contacted an
attorney about this incident "to make sure my rights are
Satell also took part in a Kwanzaa celebration with the
Africology and African American Studies program as the only
Caucasian participant. "[O]ne student and one professor
would not participate with him" in the Kwanzaa
celebration. A friend of Mr. Satell then placed him
in contact with a law firm but Mr. Satell did not contact the
law firm. He also told Dr. Asante of the incident and Dr.
Asante assured Mr. Satell he would protect him from this
Mr. Satell's work in the doctoral program.
November 2013, Mr. Satell applied to the Africology and
African American Studies doctoral program and the University
admitted him. In Fall 2014 semester, Mr. Satell
enrolled as a doctoral student in Africology and African
American Studies program. Mr. Satell was the only
Caucasian in the doctoral program.
University's policies for the doctoral program mandate if
a student receives "more than two grades below B- or
more than one F constitutes grounds for academic dismissal.
Students receiving two grades below B- or more than one F are
automatically removed from the graduate
programs." The University also had a grade appeal
grievance process for doctoral students which require the
student first address the grade with "the faculty or
staff concerned, " and if the issue is not resolved, the
student should then consult the Graduate Director as a
confidential intermediary. If the student's grade
issue is still not resolved, the student must then submit a
written appeal to the Graduate Director who must appoint a
committee to hear the student's appeal. The committee
makes a decision. The student can then appeal the
committee's decision to the College of Liberal Arts, and
in extraordinary circumstances, appeal to the Graduate School
2014, Mr. Satell enrolled in three courses: African
Civilizations, Research Methods for African American Studies,
and Theories and Methods in African American Studies and
earned an A, B, and B- for his grades
respectively. In Mr. Satell's Theories and Methods
in African American Studies course, Professor Dr. Ama Mazama
told her class, including Mr. Satell, Afrocentricity "is
about essence, meaning skin color, race which it
predetermined" which meant Mr. Satell is excluded
because he is Caucasian. Mr. Satell never discussed the
meaning of this statement with Dr. Mazama. Dr. Mazama
also offered her students materials if they chose to do a
presentation on Diop, a figure in Africology, but when Mr.
Satell selected Diop for his presentation topic, Dr. Mazama
did not give him the materials. Mr Satell is not aware if
Dr. Mazama provided the Diop materials to other
students. Mr. Satell reported Dr. Mazama's
comment and her Afrocentricity "is about essence"
statement in a letter to Dr. Asante.
Mazama awarded Mr. Satell a C in her African American
Africology class. Mr. Satell requested a grade change
based on Dr. Mazama's e-mails promising to change his
grade and as a result, Dr. Mazama changed his grade to a
Spring 2015, Mr. Satell enrolled in three courses, African
Aesthetics, Ancient Egyptian Language I, and Teaching
African-American Studies earning an A-, B-, and a
Satell attended "Teaching African-American Studies"
taught by Dr. Nilgun Anadolu-Okur, a Caucasian
woman. Dr. Okur treated Mr. Satell, the only
Caucasian, differently from the other four students in the
class when she denied his requests for an appointment for
office hours. Dr. Okur allowed other students to make
appointments for office hours. Dr. Okur gave him less time to
present than other students on his first and second
presentations, forced him to give his third presentation
outside class time, and interrupted him during his
presentation. Dr. Okur also approved his paper topic,
and then forced him to change his paper topic before he had
to give a presentation about his paper, and two weeks before
his final paper on that topic was due. Mr. Satell
compiled and changed his paper topic but Dr. Okur still
falsely reported he refused to change his paper topic to the
director of the program, Dr. Molefi Asante. Dr. Okur also
required an African American student to redo his
presentation, then Dr. Okur forgot and the student never
redid his presentation.
Satell found Dr. Okur had "erratic behavior across the
board" towards students but only "grandstand[ed] on
him" as the only Caucasian. Mr. Satell believes Dr.
Okur did this to "humiliate [him] in front of the class
and consistently treated [him] differently than the other
class members in a very public way."
Dr. Okur awarded him a C- in her class, Mr. Satell contacted
Dr. Asante because of his concern the doctoral program would
automatically dismiss him if he received a second grade below
a B-. Dr. Asante directed Mr. Satell to speak
with the Graduate Director for the program, Dr.
Mazama. Dr. Mazama told Mr. Satell she contacted
Dr. Okur several times but received no
response. Mr. Satell then grieved his grade from
Dr. Okur to the University's Vice Dean of Graduate
Affairs for the College of Liberal Arts. During the
review, Mr. Satell spoke with a student ombudsperson and
raised issues of "the possible role of racial
basis" in his grade. The College of Liberal Arts
graduate committee denied Mr. Satel's grade appeal and
his grade remained a C-. The committee also directed Mr.
Satell to contact the University's Office of Equal
Opportunity Compliance about his racial basis
concerns. Mr. Satell never contacted the office
about his racial basis concerns.
Mr. Satell's grade remained a C-, under the
University's doctoral policies, if Mr. Satell received
one more grade under a B-, the University would automatically
dismiss him from the program.
2015, Mr. Satell enrolled in two courses: Readings in African
History and Critical Reading: African Diaspora earning a B-
Satell's Readings in African History class taught by Dr.
Asante, a guest speaker suggested Mr. Satell take a group
photograph because Mr. Satell is a different race than
everyone else. Dr. Asante told the guest speaker,
"that's terrible, he puts up with enough stuff in
Spring 2016, Mr. Satell enrolled in four courses: Independent
Study, Individual Research in African American Studies,
History of the American Presidency, and Recent U.S. history
receiving a B, C, A, and B respectively.
Satell's Independent Studies course taught by Dr. Aaron
Smith, he submitted a paper for this independent studies
course and Dr. Smith initially gave him A. Dr. Smith
then identified three passages where Mr. Satell plagiarized
16, 2016, Dr. Asante told Mr. Satell he changed his
independent studies course grade from an A to a C- because
Mr. Satell failed to properly cite sources at least three
times.Dr. Asante explained Mr. Satell,
"received a C because of the sourcing
problem." Dr. Asante's notice was the first
notice Mr. Satell received about issues with his final
paper. Dr. Asante also notified Mr. Satell of
his right to seek review of this grade change through the
Satell received two grades below a B- and the University
would now automatically dismiss him from the doctoral
program. Attempting to remain in the program, Mr. Satell
asked Dr. Asante to ask Dr. Okur if she would she raise his
C- in Teaching African-American Studies to a
B-. Dr. Okur refused because Mr. Satell
actually received an F in her class but already raised his
grade to a C- and refused to raise it any higher citing the
committee's denial of Mr. Satell's
Satell then e-mailed Dr. Asante about the plagiarized paper
for Dr. Smith and also complained again about Dr. Okur and
Dr. Mazama. In his e-mail to Dr. Asante, Mr. Satell
also included a draft of his letter to Dr.
Smith. Mr. Satell describes the plagiarism as a
misunderstanding because he did not finish the
with its policies, the University removed Mr. Satell from the
doctoral program based on his two grades below a B-. Mr.
Satell never grieved his grade in Dr. Smith's Independent
Studies course. Mr. Satell is not aware of any
non-Caucasian students in his program who committed or were
accused of plagiarism and were not disciplined.
Satell sued the University alleging it violated the
Fourteenth Amendment by dismissing him from a doctoral
program without notice and due process. Mr. Satell also
alleged the University violated Title VI by discriminating
against him on the basis of race. The University moves for
summary judgment on the due process claim arguing it offered
constitutionally sufficient process but Mr. Satell failed to
use the process. The University also moves for summary
judgment on Mr. Satell's Title VI claim because he fails
to adduce evidence of intentional discrimination, and even if
he had, the two year statute of limitations ran on his
Mr. Satell fails to adduce evidence the University deprived
him of due process.
Satell alleges the University deprived him of due process
because Dr. Asante told him of his grade change after the
grade already changed, not before and failed to provide an
adequate opportunity to be heard.
Fourteenth Amendment right "is implicated when a student
in a school run by a state faces non de minimis
sanctions imposed by the school." Our court of
appeals instructs when a school dismisses a student for
academic reasons, "an informal faculty evaluation with a
student is all that is required" to satisfy due
process. The Supreme Court distinguished this
informal evaluation from the more stringent level of due
process required for students charged with disciplinary
infractions where formal notice and a hearing are
the Fourteenth Amendment requires the University give Mr.
Satell an informal faculty evaluation, it also requires Mr.
Satell take advantage of the University's procedures
because his "due process violation 'is not complete
when the deprivation occurs, it is not complete unless and
until [the University] fails to provide due
University told Mr. Satell his professor changed his
Independent Studies paper grade from an A to a C- and the
reasons for the change. The University also notified Mr.
Satell of his right to seek review of this grade change
through the grievance process. Mr. Satell elected not grieve
his grade using the University's procedures, even though
he knew about the procedure having grieved his grade from Dr.
Satell argues the University violated his rights by giving
him notice after, not before, it changed his grade. Mr.
Satell does not have a constitutional right to notice before
the University changes his grade. The Fourteenth Amendment
does not require formal notice before academic dismissal; it
only requires an informal faculty evaluation for due
is no dispute of material fact as, viewing the evidence in
the light most favorable to Mr. Satell, the University
provided Mr. Satell with due process when it told him his
professor changed his grade, the reasons for the change, and
offered him the opportunity to change the grade. Mr. Satell,
however, elected not take advantage of the University's
offered due process.
now estopped from alleging the University "failed to
provide due process." We grant summary judgment for
the University on Mr. Satel's due process claim.
The statute of limitations bars Mr. Satell's Title VI
Satell alleges the University discriminated against him as
the only Caucasian in the Africology and ...